A third-placed finish on the medal tally at the track cycling world titles is encouraging for Australia, but national performance director Kevin Tabotta insists it’s the fourths and fifths which will pay dividends at the Rio Olympics in five months time.
Australia went home empty handed on the final day of the track cycling world championships in London, with Anna Meares finishing fourth in the women’s sprint and Annette Edmondson coming fifth in her title defence of the women’s omnium.
Meanwhile, Cam Meyer and Callum Scotson claimed fifth in the madison and earlier sprint star Matthew Glaetzer looked fatigued after his silver-medal-winning effort in the spring on Saturday night as he went out in the keirin repechage.
But across the week Tabotta saw more promising signs.
“I’m encouraged by the overall performance of the team,” he said.
“We came here looking to improve our performances across a number of the different disciplines in the events.
“Sure we would’ve been happier with a couple of extra medals along the way, but I’m not disheartened by this at all.”
Of Australia’s five medals, which left them third behind Great Britain (9) and Germany (8) in the standings, four came in Olympic events.
In a further five Olympic events, Australia finished fourth or fifth – only failing to feature prominently in the men’s keirin.
Tabotta argues the standings could’ve easily looked vastly different – with the likes of Georgia Baker’s fourth finish in the women’s points race and Glenn O’Shea’s bronze in the men’s omnium both inches away from gold.
He pointed to the fifth place by the women’s team pursuit, who were defending their title, and the plight of Edmondson, their key rider who was struck by a car a fortnight ago but managed to finish fifth in her omnium defence, as further reasons to be encouraged.
So too the men’s sprint team, who were denied a shot at the medal races by a millisecond.
“There’s no question we’ve got some work we need to put in place between now and race day,” he said.
“But what’s really encouraging is we’re in those fourth and fifth places, those hundredths and thousandths of a second difference between medals and not having medals.
“We’re in a really, really good position.
“I’m confident we can convert those fourth and fifth places into medals by Rio.”
Tabotta said the five-day meet had clarified the positions and hopes of several Olympic hopefuls, but wouldn’t be drawn on their names or disciplines.
The 15-strong team will be named on June 27, with several cuts to be made before then.
Tabotta said those in the 20-strong squad who had performed strongly in London would be viewed favourably – but the likes of men’s team pursuit riders Alex Edmondson and Jack Bobridge, veteran sprinter Shane Perkins and women’s team pursuit star Mel Hoskins will also feature in discussions.
A selection camp held at the end of this month to further trim numbers as Tabotta and his team try to get down to the magic number.
AUSTRALIAN MEDALS AT TRACK CYCLING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN LONDON
* Men’s team pursuit – Michael Hepburn, Callum Scotson, Miles Scotson, Sam Welsford, Luke Davison, Alex Porter.
* Women’s individual pursuit – Rebecca Wiasak
* Women’s keirin – Anna Meares
* Men’s sprint – Matthew Glaetzer
* Men’s omnium – Glenn O’Shea